Who wins in new KC sales tax: Taxpayers or firefighters?
The Kansas City Star
To answer the question first, it’s firefighters. Of course.
Here’s the situation: On Thursday, with City Council member Cindy Circo leading the way but with other council members backing her up, the council indicated it won’t promise KC taxpayers how much new revenue essentially created by a proposed half-cent sales tax will be spent on better roads.
That’s supposed to be one of the positive moves from approving the new tax in August, The parks department will get all of the new sales tax money, eliminating its need for $13 million a year from the general fund.
Then that general fund money, the council has said in recent days, would be used for street repairs.
But Circo was adamant in saying the politicians shouldn’t make any direct promises on how much money would really be used for roads. Others agreed, pointing out that times change, that budgets change, that the city needs “flexibility” in spending these funds.
Hmmm, that’s ironic.
Remember the city’s deal with the firefighters?
Let’s go back a few weeks, when Circo, Mayor Sly James and the rest of the council were working on a new three-year contract for the powerful fire union. That contract contained some specific promises to firefighters.
The biggest: After 33 firefighters are enticed into early retirement this year with excessive buyouts, the city can’t touch the Fire Department again for the next three years. No more layoffs - no matter what changes in the KC budget, no matter if bad economic times continue.
So much for “flexibility.”
The contract also guaranteed raises to many firefighters in two of the next three years.
But what happens if “times change”? What happens if the city needs “flexibility” in keeping its fiscal head above water?
Well, it will be tough luck for the rest of the city staff and taxpayers.
The staffs in other departments will be laid off, just as happened in recent years while the Fire Department wasn’t touched.
And other services will be cut back for KC residents - without touching the firefighting force.
In other words, making specific promises to the union is fine, but making them to taxpayers isn’t.